Publication Date: 2014-04-07
Louis Mandrin led a gang of bandits who brazenly smuggled contraband into 18th-century France. Kwass brings new life to the legend of this Gallic Robin Hood and the thriving underworld he helped to create. Contraband exposes the dark side of early globalization, revealing connections between illicit commerce, criminality, and popular revolt. As the French began to crave colonial products, Louis XIV lined the royal coffers by imposing a state monopoly on tobacco from America and an embargo on brilliant calico cloth from India. Vigorous black markets arose through which traffickers fed these exotic goods to eager French consumers. Flouting the law with unparalleled panache, Mandrin captured widespread public attention to become a symbol of a defiant underground. Eventually, Mandrin was captured by French troops and put to death in a brutal public execution intended to demonstrate the king's absolute authority. But the spectacle only cemented Mandrin's status as a rebel folk hero in an age of mounting discontent. Amid cycles of underground rebellion and agonizing penal repression, the memory of Mandrin inspired ordinary subjects and Enlightenment philosophers alike to challenge royal power and forge a movement for radical political change.